Lesson 6: Character Animation using Rotoscoping in Adobe Animate

Approx. 12-18 hrs.
The goals of this lesson:

Rotoscoping is the process of using full-motion video footage as a guide to animating realistic character movement. ( not to be confused with cel-shading although this is related to rotoscoping ).


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Vinnie's Afro: Vincent Walker 2011

Rotoscoping is an effective way to produce realistic, natural character animation. It's a great solution for those designers who either can't illustrate authentic animation by hand or don't have the time.

Here's a more detailed explanation of Rotoscoping on Wikipedia (includes extensive list of movies and animations developed using "Roto").

How is it done?
The animator uses video footage of a character in motion as a template and draws over the top. Frame-by-frame. The results are outstanding and well worth the effort.

Adobe Animate makes this process easy; simply import video, place it on a layer, on another layer above this, use drawing tools to trace outlines (limbs, head, eyes, lips etc) for each frame. After the frames are traced, remove the video and what remains is authentic, "natural-looking" animation.


Learning Task : Rotoscope a video sequence (3-4 hrs)

Work through the following steps to help you understand the process of rotoscoping.

Download this sample video (laugh1.mp4, 250KB mp4) into a folder on your computer.

In Adobe Animate create a new document 192x144px and 30fps to match the video.

Supporting Video
There are two videos on our shared Google Drive folder that can help you with this task. They're for Adobe Animate CC2015 and Adobe Media Encoder (AME) 2015; "rotoimportmp4" (watch this first) and "rotosplitaudio".

If you have older versions of Adobe Animate and AME then you can still do this task, just jump into our forums for tips on how to work with the older software.

Don't feel compelled to draw every single frame. You can draw one, skip two, draw one, skip two etc. This is the best approach. There might be a sequence where you need to draw every single frame such as explosions or rapid movement but for this task you won't need that "fidelity".

Final Touches
With the keyframes drawn and the audio "in-synch" with the footage, make a new layer and add a background (illustrate your own or import a suitable photo in keeping with the charcter).

Save your .fla then and submit for feedback via email as laugh.swf

If you need a hand with this task, pop into our 2D Digital Animation Forum and ask for help there.


Assessment Task : Develop a Self Portrait using Rotoscoping (12 hrs)

Self portraits are usually static and done using paint on canvas or with a camera. In this assessment you need to produce a different style of self-portrait; an animated one with audio. Animation with audio can make your portrait come alive!

Adobe Animate Specifications:

  • Duration maximum 10secs.
  • Frame-rate to match your video.
  • Stage size to match your video.

Think of a scenario then capture it using a video camera or smart phone. Import your video into Adobe Animate and start drawing.

Pre-Production / Planning:
Emphasis here is on the technical skills rather than the pre-production / planning process. Simply brainstorm how you would like to portray yourself then jump to it.

Even though it's a self portrait try to think beyond the norm for this portrait.
: Props are a great way to break the formality of a traditional portrait.

  • Are you a skater? Use the board as a prop.
  • Are you a busy working mum? Stick a kid under one arm and a laptop under the other.
  • See yourself as a secret agent? Grab a plastic gun and take out the bad guy.



Assessment Guidelines:
You will be assessed on the following:

  • Timing; audio matches video, timing maintains interest
  • Clarity of message (visuals and audio)
  • Adherence to design fundamentals; use "effective" layout composition
  • Adherence to the brief/ technical specifications


Need Help?
If you need help on this process, jump into our 2D Animation Forum and ask there.


Submission Guidelines
Submit just the final .swf for marking using the Assignment Tool. If it exceeeds 10MB submit using your preferred online file sharing tool.


Chris Adams 2017

Summary :
Rotoscoping makes authentic character animation easy. It's time-consuming but the results are worth it. It can add a "surreal" feel to full-motion video as well as provide an effective way to animate what might ordinarily be very difficult to do by hand.

This lesson also allowed you to explore using Adobe Media Encoder to "transcode" or convert video and audio into a different format / codec ready for importing into Adobe Animate.